Detroit medical malpractice attorney Scott Weidenfeller discusses DMC medical negligence and common medical errors seen in all hospitals, including the failure to perform crucial lab tests when patients are experiencing chest pain and/or difficulty breathing.
Detroit Medical Center – which is owned by Tenet Healthcare out of Dallas – just lost 4 cardiologists; 3 were fired from their leadership positions and 1 cardiologist abruptly resigned. In a federal lawsuit, 2 of the cardiologists alleged that they were fired because they repeatedly made complaints about cost-cutting measures that were costing patients their lives.
In the federal lawsuit that accuses DMC and Tenet Healthcare of retaliating against them for repeatedly raising concerns about patient safety, the cardiologists claimed the following:
- In early 2018, a DMC patient died from a lethal potassium level in his blood because the hospital had removed the blood testing equipment from the cardiac catheterization lab. Without the equipment, the cardiologists couldn’t have the patient’s blood analyzed STAT, right there in the lab. Instead, the cardiology team had to send the blood to a different part of the hospital to be tested, and the results were not reported to the cardiology team for hours.
- In 2015, a patient died because 2 inexperienced doctors mismanaged treatment of his pulmonary embolism and he bled to death.
- In 2016, a patient died after receiving several unnecessary procedures.
- In 2016, a patient died “due to an unnecessary procedure being performed experimentally by physicians attempting the procedure for the first time.”
- Recently, a physician performed a procedure without consent on a young female patient who died shortly thereafter. The physician who performed the procedure falsified medical records to cover up the basis for the female’s death. This physician is now under FBI investigation.
One of the cardiologists suing DMC and Tenet, Dr. Mahir Elder, had complained multiple times about the physician who performed the nonconsensual procedure on the female DMC patient. He sent a letter on how “DMC’s lack of action against (the doctor) is ethically shocking to me. It is high time that DMC stop worrying about profits and stay focused on patient safety.”
This lawsuit against DMC and Tenet highlights the epidemic of medical mistakes in the nation’s hospitals. Medical error is the third leading cause of death in the U.S., behind heart disease and cancer.
DELAYED LAB TESTS & FAILURE TO PROVIDE LIFE-SAVING CARE
In our medical malpractice cases, we frequently see delayed laboratory tests that, had they been timely performed, could have elicited crucial life-saving treatment from the medical team. These are a few of the many laboratory test errors we see in our cases:
DELAYED ANALYSIS OF TROPONIN LEVELS OR OTHER CARDIAC BIOMARKERS SUCH AS CREATININE KINASE
- A patient has chest pain and/or other signs of myocardial infarction (heart attack) and the medical team fails to promptly draw blood that can reveal whether the cardiac tissue is suffering from a lack of blood flow / oxygen and has sustained damage. This important lab test is called troponin, and if an elevated troponin value is promptly reported, doctors can perform interventions to increase blood flow and oxygen to the part (or parts) of the heart being deprived of blood flow / oxygen, which can prevent further cardiac damage. Sometimes a patient has a blockage and doctors need to place a stent or perform angioplasty in order to increase blood flow / oxygenation. Or, it may be the case that the patient received medicine that is causing the cardiac blood vessels to severely constrict, which can also cause reduced blood flow and oxygenation. If an elevated troponin level is revealed, the medical team can act quickly to stop the medication or condition that is causing the cardiac vessel constriction, thereby helping to restore adequate blood flow / oxygen to the cardiac tissue.
DELAYED PERFORMANCE OF ARTERIAL BLOOD GAS (ABG) ANALYSIS
- ABG analysis involves drawing blood from an artery (blood is in the arteries right after it passes through the lungs) to see how well a patient is breathing. ABG analysis has many components that can show a patient’s respiratory status, but mainly, it shows how much oxygen the patient is taking into their blood stream, how much carbon dioxide the patient is getting rid of, and whether blood is acidic (and if this is caused by a breathing problem, a metabolic problem or a combination of both). ABG analysis is crucial in determining if a patient is in respiratory failure or is experiencing impending respiratory failure. When ABG analysis is timely performed, the medical team can quickly intervene to give a patient help breathing, often in the form of placing a breathing tube into the patient’s upper airway and having a machine (called a ventilator) help the patient breathe. Doing this can prevent a patient from going into cardiopulmonary arrest or “coding,” which can prevent the patient from dying or having permanent heart and/or permanent brain damage. In many of our cases, the staff fails to recognize signs of respiratory failure or impending respiratory failure and they do not perform ABG analysis, leaving the patient struggling to breathe, which then results in cardiopulmonary collapse and arrest.
FAILURE TO PERFORM CULTURES / DELAYED PERFORMANCE OF CULTURES
- Recently, we have reviewed numerous cases in which physicians fail to perform cultures such as blood cultures or cultures from a patient’s lungs, and they miss a diagnosis of dangerous infections – such as MRSA and strep – that require very specific antibiotics. Cultures are important because they allow the medical team to see what specific strains of bacteria, etc., are growing in the culture dish. Once they know what strains are growing, they can provide specific antibiotics, etc., to target the strain or strains infecting the patient. When a serious bacterial infection is suspected, the standard of care typically requires administration of broad-spectrum antibiotics until the culture results come back, at which time the team should promptly prescribe the specific antibiotics required.
DELAYED PERFORMANCE OF ELECTROLYTE TESTS
- Electrolytes are crucial for cellular metabolism and fluid balance, and if they are not at normal levels, the patient can experience serious issues, such as hypovolemia (low blood volume) and cardiac problems. Electrolytes such as potassium, calcium, sodium and magnesium can greatly impact the function of the heart if they are not at normal levels. In the case discussed above, the patient had a very high potassium level that was fatal. Indeed, it can be very dangerous for patients when indicated lab tests are not promptly performed – and, in some cases, performed “STAT.”
Physicians and other healthcare providers have also been known to falsify records. Our medical malpractice team works with the best experts in the country, including forensic experts who can help prove medical record falsification.
THE DETROIT MEDICAL MALPRACTICE LAWYERS AT GREWAL LAW ARE HERE TO HELP
If you believe that you or a family member was a victim of medical negligence, please contact our team of experienced Detroit medical malpractice lawyers. The medical malpractice team at Grewal Law is comprised of attorneys and healthcare professionals, including an on-site physician, registered nurse, pharmacist, paramedic, and respiratory therapist. The team also works with the best experts in the country. Our attorneys are licensed in Michigan and Florida, and we help victims of medical malpractice in these states. Grewal Law’s medical malpractice attorneys and medical staff are available to speak with you 24/7.
A Michigan native who graduated from both Michigan State University and Cooley Law School, Mr. Weidenfeller has limited his practice of law to representing individuals who have been permanently injured and families who have lost a loved one as the result of medical errors for more than 20 years. In that time, he has been featured on the cover of Michigan Lawyer’s Weekly and has spoken to many and varied professional groups about trial practice and effective communication.